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American sentenced to death has video game ties; As Iran's Rial slides, dollar text messages blocked; Al Jazeera jammed; Iran media silent on naval resuces

Iran rial slides, 'dollar' text messages appear blocked: Iran's currency has slid 20 percent against the dollar in the last week despite central bank intervention, and Iranians concerned about the economy said on Tuesday attempts to send text messages using the word "dollar" appeared to be blocked. The currency slide is a huge risk for consumer prices in a country where the official inflation rate - considered an underestimate by many economists - is already around 20 percent and rising. In a hint of political sensitivity over the issue, Iranians, long used to controls over Internet and mobile communications, said they were unable to send text messages containing the word "dollar". "My colleagues and I tried to text each other in the office and to our surprise we found that texts that included words like 'dollar' and 'foreign currency' could not be delivered," said Malek, a 45-year-old government employee in Tehran. Newspapers reported on the problem, adding that officials had denied filtering text messages. Reuters calls to officials went unanswered.

Iran jamming Al Jazeera broadcasts: Iran is jamming broadcasts by Qatar-based news channel Al Jazeera, according to a document from satellite operator Arabsat obtained by Reuters on Tuesday, with the broadcaster saying it believed it was because of its coverage of Syria. Interference is coming from two locations in Iran, one west of Tehran and the other near the northwestern city of Maraghen, the document showed. "We believe that this is happening because of our coverage of Syria," a senior official at Al Jazeera told Reuters, declining to be identified. The official said they believed other channels in the region had also been jammed. Neither Arabsat nor Iranian officials were immediately available for comment.

Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's visit to Cuba is being tightly contained. The media is not getting any chance to ask any questions despite news out of that country garnering worldwide attention: the bombing death Wednesday of an Iranian nuclear scientist; tensions with the U.S. over Iran's nuclear program; and the recently announced death sentence for an alleged U.S. spy. Ahmadinejad waved at foreign journalists and made a victory sign on the tarmac of Havana's international airport, but his Cuban hosts steadily steered him away from the cameras and into a Mercedes for the 20 minute trip to the iconic Hotel Nacional, where he and his security-heavy entourage are staying.

Iran's Internet Crackdown Plans: Is There a Way Out?

Iran's strict cyber regulations lay groundwork for 'halal' network: New cyber regulations announced by Iran last week, including requiring Internet cafes to install surveillance cameras, could be just a precursor to the Islamic Republic’s “halal” network, many observers are saying.

Prominent Iranian director Asghar Farhadi has written a letter to the Ministry of Culture, calling for a vote on the decision to dissolve the House of Cinema in Iran. The Shargh Newspaper reported today that the director of the highly praised film Separation of Nader From Simin wrote to the deputy of the ministry, saying: "If the decision to dissolve the House of Cinema is based on the idea that the majority of the film community and members of the guild are in agreement with your method, then I suggest that you take a vote on this decision among the few thousand members of the House of Cinema."

Iranian Cleric Says Facebook is Un-Islamic, Membership Sin: cleric from Iran has claimed that social networking site Facebook is "un-Islamic" and being a member of it is a sin, the ISNA news agency reported last week. "Basically, going to any website which propagates immoralities and could weaken the religious belief is un-Islamic and not allowed, and membership in it is therefore a sin," the unnamed cleric said, replying to the news agency's question regarding Facebook and Iranian citizens who are members of Facebook. "Only the use of websites propagating religious criteria and not leading to any kind of ethical immoralities is of no problem," he added.

Video game maker linked to US prisoner in Iran: Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, the American sentenced to death by the Iranian government, is linked to a small New York company specializing in video games that recreate real-life conflicts in the Middle East and beyond. The company, Kuma Games, makes a series of "Kuma/War" games that come in short, 10- to 15-minute episodes. The scenarios are usually nabbed from the news, and like documentary films, they seek to be as accurate as possible in chronicling real-life situations. Players can simulate events such as the killing of Osama Bin Laden, Afghan air strikes or the death of Moammar Gadhafi. There's also "Assault on Iran," about the country's nuclear ambitions.

Iranian pilot rises against US sanctions: The Iranian hero pilot, who recently landed his malfunctioning plane safely, has launched an internet campaign to counter Western sanctions against Iran's public air transportation sector, Press TV reports. “In my website I have asked all my fellow countrymen to sign a petition against such an inhumane action [imposing sanction],” Houshang Shahbazi told Press TV on Tuesday. More than 250 thousand people have endorsed the campaign to eliminate of unilateral US sanctions on Iran's civilian aviation in less than a month.

Iran media plays down US naval rescue of nationals: Iranian media were largely silent Saturday on the US navy's rescue of 13 Iranians held by pirates in the Arabian Sea, making little mention of the incident -- or that the US ships included an aircraft carrier Tehran had warned out of the region. The official Islamic Republic News Agency reported only that a US warship "claimed" to have saved the Iranian fishermen from a weeks-long ordeal as captives of Somali pirates. "So far Islamic Republic of Iran's armed forces staff has not confirmed" the incident, IRNA said.



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